The NASA Earmark

The pork marches on, in the NASA budget. I discuss this in a blog post at the Washington Examiner today.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s more at the Taxpayer Protection Alliance:

it looks like at least two NASA earmarks have made their way into the continuing resolution. On pages 214-215 of H.R. 1473 (the continuing resolution) there is language that states, “Of the amounts appropriated by this division for ‘National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Exploration’, not less than $1,200,000,000 shall be for the multipurpose crew vehicle to continue existing vehicle development activities to meet the requirements described in paragraph (a)(1) of section 303 of Public Law 111-267, and not less than $1,800,000,000 shall be for the heavy lift launch vehicle system which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously.”

This is important because Congress made a pledge of no earmarks and these particular earmarks would be used to salvage the Constellation Program that the President has tried to cancel.

The President signed into law legislation cancelling major components (the Ares I Rocket) of the Constellation program in 2010. But, because of a provision in NASA’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 Appropriations Act, NASA will spend an estimated $500 million on the Ares I rocket. On January 2, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “in the last days of last Congress they funded five hundred million dollars for a rocket program at NASA that’s already been shut down. That can’t be too hard to undo.”

Apparently, it’s a lot harder than Congressman Issa thought.

[Update a while later]

Where did the 130 tons come from? It looks like Mike Griffin decided he hadn’t already done enough damage.

20 thoughts on “The NASA Earmark”

  1. Of course if the ISS is de-man and mothballed next year because COTS failed NASA will have a lot more to spend in the next few years since it won’t need to fund the ISS resupply contract, CCDev, or ISS operations and Russian transport other then perhaps a Progress mission to drop it in the ocean…

    Private Rocket Firm Under Pressure to Fill Space Shuttle Void

    [[[“We have a very serious responsibility here because the space shuttle is coming to a close,” SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk told reporters here at the 27th National Space Symposium Tuesday (April 12). “What we’ve been told by NASA is that if we don’t reach the space station by the end of this year, there’s a risk that they will have to de-man the space station next year. We’ve got to be sure that we get to the space station. That is very much our primary focus.” ]]]

  2. I don’t understand that. If SpaceX fails, why wouldn’t Soyuz be able to keep the space station manned?

  3. rickl,

    I don’t know as Soyuz/Progress did OK when the Shuttle was grounded. And we have ESA and the Japanese supply spacecraft as well now.

    So Elon’s statement does seems a bit strange to me. Especially as NASA is making an extra Shuttle flight to stock up the ISS on parts and consumables. Perhaps more will come out in a few days on it.

  4. Now that NASA human spaceflight is forced by Congress to squander another few years and billion$ prototyping a rocket that they’ll be unable to afford nor finish, how many years should we tune out before listening to the next Augustine committee?

  5. John,

    Depends on the 2012 election. If President Obama is elected then it will be after the 2016 election. If he loses then the winner will appoint a new space commission and the cycle will start over…

  6. There isn’t enough cargo vessels to keep 6 people up there once the Shuttle retires.. so if COTS doesn’t come online they’ll have to reduce the expedition crew size.

  7. I don’t know about that, Trent. There’s the Progress, ESA’s ATV (big sucker) and Japan’s cargo vehicle (also pretty sizeable) that are already operational. If both COTS designs don’t work out (seems unlikely to me) then perhaps they’d look at stepping up the flight rate of the existing vehicles before cutting the crew size very much.

  8. I’m not sure the issue is as much upmass as downmass. But that would require someone actually reading the lessons learned from both Skylab and Mir, rather to reading blathering nonsense from Matula. Still, I think Soyuz/Progress will be sufficient for several years, and with ATV/HTV (particularly the latter), there should be pretty good capability from others. Now if that “Smart Diplomacy” allows us to stay allied with those partners might be another concern…

  9. You are obviously more comfortable with childish technology like the F9.

    I’m scratching my head on this comment. How is a demonstrated capability a childish technology?

    I also suspect the 70 to 100 becoming 130 or more is just to keep the target (not the result) enough ahead of private competition to justify keeping the pork flowing. Even congress would have trouble keeping up the stupidity if an American alternative were already operational. As long as SpaceX remains profitable they are going to keep surprising everybody with new capabilities from time to time.

  10. Regarding 100-130 ton heavy lift, any estimates what a Falcon9x7 (a cluster of 7 Falcon9 stretched modules) could lift? I figure launch with 4 boosters cross feeding the core and dropping first, then the remaining boosters start cross feeding to the core and drop when empty.

  11. Actually you really don’t need to look any further then page 66 of the Augustine Committee to understand the reasoning for the SLS. “For lunar missions Ares V Lite is used in the “dual mode.” The Orion and Altair are launched on separate Ares V flights, and they dock either in Earth or Moon orbit, depending on the mission mode eventually chosen.

    The senators are just trying to salvage enough of the VSE so when a Republican president is elected they will be able to call for a return to the Moon and see it accomplished in their administration.

    But the statement Elon made keeps bothering me. I wonder if some in NASA are looking to use Elon’s COTS schedule slips as an excuse to dump the ISS in the ocean and place the blame on COTS being a failure. It would clear it from the books as well as put an end to any future try at commercial out sourcing. This would clear the way for NASA to go back to the old order of things. Hmmm, perhaps I have been reading too many books on 19th Century Asian political and business strategy 🙂

    But I do hope Elon’s next COTS launch is picture perfect.

  12. The senators are just trying to salvage enough of the VSE so when a Republican president is elected they will be able to call for a return to the Moon and see it accomplished in their administration.

    Constellation is not the VSE. The new policy is actually much closer to the VSE than Mike Griffin’s plans were.

  13. The Ares V Lite was also not strictly part of Constellation, but was offered as an alternative approach to VSE by the Augustine Committee.

    Note, I am not arguing for it, just clarifying it origin.

  14. So Congress stole $3 billion from COTS to fund techno-welfare. Please, don’t anyone lecture me on the nuances of appropriations and earmarks, because what matters is that Congress misappropriated this money that could have gone to a more constructive purpose; if not COTS, then advanced propulsion and related technologies.

    Also, there is no demonstrable need for an HLV of 130 tons-plus capacity. In addition there is no way in Hell that this SLS project can be brought to fruition by 2016, whereas the Falcon Heavy, even with a slip in schedules (which is likely) could make its first flight no later than 2015. The Heavy’s projected capability of 53 tons is more than adequate for both LEO and BEO needs for the foreseeable future, especially if coupled with orbital fuel depots.

    I’m puzzled as to why people continue to express skepticism about SpaceX in light of its recent major successes and acceleated pace of develpment.

  15. Ok, this is really quite annoying. You can’t snap your fingers and say “we’ll just fly more Progress/HIIV/ATV!” The current flight rate is stretched to the limit already. ISS resupply is a well documented transparent process.. it’s also *incredibly* dull, but that’s no excuse for assuming your ignorance is shared by everyone.

    The operations guys on ISS are very conservative and sticklers for their rules but they know their stuff and when they say they’re screwed if COTS doesn’t come online soon, they mean it. Be thankful that a reduced crew can still be maintained.

    Oh, and non-COTS resupply vehicles are insanely expensive, so if you ever want to do anything of actual practical use of the ISS (that whole “full utilization” thing they’re always talking about) then we need COTS.

  16. In hammering out this final bill, how much detail did the congresscritters drill down to? I get the feeling that they didn’t really review every appropriation. Just some cherry-picked ones.

    So when it got down to NASA appropriations – small potatoes in the grand scheme of things – they didn’t bother to analyze the appropriations for efficiency. They just wanted to “Git ‘er Duuuun” so that they could battle over the issues they cared about (NPR, Planned Parenthood, Soldier’s pay), and so that they could move on to the next fights which they advertised as more important..the REAL fights (debt ceiling and the 2012 budget).

  17. Ok, this is really quite annoying. You can’t snap your fingers and say “we’ll just fly more Progress/HIIV/ATV!” The current flight rate is stretched to the limit already.

    The flight rate is constrained by resources but it is nowhere near stretched to the limit. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union averaged about 60 space launches each year, most on the Soyuz booster. Most of those launches carried military payloads but quite a few of those payloads were on the order of complexity of a Progress resupply craft. They were willing to devote the resources necessary to make it happen and the cost per launch was subsequently lower. We don’t have to go back to that level of activity but it wouldn’t be that difficult to double the number of Progress flights per year with a couple years of lead time (the time it’d take to know that COTS failed). I suspect ESA could increase their ATV flight rate also if the need and necessary resources arose.

  18. larry, if you were paying attention you’d know they *already did that*. If there’s anyone on this site left who actually knows what they’re talking about I’d be happy to continue this conversation.. otherwise…

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